Conversation Agent: Get the Job: Conversation with Harry Joiner, Marketing Headhunter

[Faking mathematical agility in a job interview - 3:41]

When Harry and I met, I had just started blogging. I knew him as the marketing headhunter from the career column in the Wall Street Journal's the Career Journal online. 

He was the first one to put me on his blogroll. That was a vote of confidence for sure, and the ability to see beyond a few posts to the person. Because I'm still here, as prolific as ever.

Recruiting high level candidates for ecommerce, like he does, requires a certain agility to do a special kind of math of the talent pool. To tell who is a good fit for which company and job, and I'm sure you realize, to detect who's ready to move up and who still needs experience is a skill.

How does he do that? He's a really good listener, knows what to listen for, and questions to ask. He's not been afraid to get his hands in the business he recruits for -- which puts him in a very good position to spot the real deal from fakes. My definition of fake is -- has no intention of putting in the work to get there.

Recruiting in good times is hard. It's even harder when the economy contracts. The job market is also changing a great deal, marketing and communications/PR jobs require analytical skills and social media experience more and more.

So I thought it would be helpful for us to learn more about recruiting for top talent from a top recruiter.


How did you get to becoming a executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and new media?

Harry : I was a business development consultant who had a process for researching, identifying, and developing profitable new market niches for B2B clients. 

Part of each engagement involved trying to teach my clients' inside sales reps my multi-step process, which involved choreographed phone contact, permission-based direct mail, and email.

Over time, I noticed that some inside sales reps were simply more talented than others -- and much more importantly, some were simply more driven.

Occasionally, in like 5% of cases, I'd see trainees who were both talented and driven, and it seemed clear to me that the other 95% was either unwilling or unable to rise to that level. 

After a year in the business, I decided to chuck it and go into a business where I could be an agent for the "5% who matter."  That business was recruiting, and integrated marketing was the closest practice area to what I had been doing.

Your work is designed around understanding the skills of top online marketers and delivering results for brands. Can you tell me a little bit about the challenges and rewards of your activities?

Harry : One of the most challenging aspects of my job is to help my clients understand what it is they really want in a new hire. 

Clients will come to me with statements like "The new hire MUST come from an Internet Retailer Top 50 company."  And I'll say "Why is that?"  And they'll say "Because we're huge, so the candidate must know how to operate in a huge company."  Which of course, does absolutely nothing for the customer. 

So I have to gently press the client and say "Wait a minute. Who is your customer?  How do they think? How do they buy? What are there top three daily frustrations as it pertains to the problem that your product claims to solve?  Is there a built-in bias to the way they buy online ... like, are they logical or emotional, etc?" 

In my mind, the only question any client needs to address is "Can we find a candidate who sells stuff in the same way our customers buy currently -- and can this candidate ultimately predict how our customers will want to interact with our brand in the future?"

One of the most rewarding things about my job is that I have been doing it for so long that I have begun to work with the same candidates as they progress from one job to another.  Candidates that I placed in 2005/6 are coming around now, asking "What's in the pipeline?  I'm ready for a new challenge." 

It's like being a sports agent.  I've placed managers, directors, and VP's with some of America's most successful brands.  It's a privilege to be in the middle of all that at this time in history.

Do expectations align between employers and candidates? Why/why not? What was your worst experience?

Harry : I'll close my 100th executive search this year, and I have seen some crazy stuff.  I've seen deals collapse that I thought would go through -- and deals that had died come back to life and close.  Having said that, disasters are rare. 

When they do happen, it's usually because one party wasn't shooting straight with the other.  Come to think of it, it was the companies who didn't play fair in the couple of deals where somebody got burned.

I'm not a big fan of companies that want a 90-day money back guarantee from me, and then make the candidate a job offer that includes an "employment at will clause" with employment beginning with a "90-day probationary period." 

If I were to ever look for another job myself, I'd ask the recruiter about his deal with the client and I would run from any company that has zero skin in the game in the event that the deal doesn't work out after only 90 days.

What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to earn attention online?

Harry : Two things: 

1.) Blog. 

Have a teachable point of view in your professional area of interest and make sure that your POV is reflected in a way that clearly transmits your integrity, passion, experience, knowledge, skill, leadership potential, commitment to your profession, vision for the industry, and humility. 

Then develop an editorial platform of topics you will and won't blog about.  For example, nobody wants to read about your cat. 

2.) Tweet only to the extent that you can showcase your teachable point of view in 140-words or less. 

Don't Tweet about random things.  Tweet about things you might blog about if you had the time.  Be professional.  People are paying more attention than you think.


He makes you want to be a better candidate, doesn't he? Harry was able to pick a new direction in his career because he worked hard at understanding what aligned with his passion, *and* worked extra to teach himself how to transfer that skill.

There are plenty of opportunities for professionals who build that agility in their attitude and approach, for those who while still in school, or in a job they're comfortable in, ask themselves:

  • how's the market changing
  • what are businesses' needs tomorrow
  • what kind of problems need solving?
  • what kind of thinking is required?
And put themselves to work on figuring it out. Forget corporate politics, in today's market the ability to develop new skills, to participate in the knowledge flow, to think and tinker matter.

Join Harry's LinkedIn Group for eCommerce Jobs, follow him on Twitter, and subscribe to his blog.

Posted via email from AndyWergedal